This series of posts came out of me doing a bit of semi-regular ‘blog housekeeping’, wherein I check to make sure links are live, no trolls lurk in the shadowy corners, that sort of thing.
I opened up the separate page I’d created for ‘The Wunder-Lusters’, and lo-and-behold I discovered, nothing … except that at some point I’d typed the words ‘under construction’, and then obviously forgot all about the poor wee thing.
I hastily added a link to The Wunder-Lusters burgeoning YouTube channel and set about writing a bit of a blurb about what The Wunder-Lusters actually was, just in case someone who hasn’t been on this journey with me dropped by and had no idea what it was all about.
So far I’ve written over 5,000 words about what this is all about.
Don’t worry, it’s not all here in this post. I’m going to break it up into edible chunks, post each one here and then post the entire story, at least thus far, on its own page. (as usual, any words in green and bold are live links for a bit of further info – and, our 2015 and 2016 Adventures need to be read from the last one to the first. Something about WP’s ordering of the universe)
Here we go …
The Wunder-Lusters Origin Story – Part 1
In the Fall of 2014 Mrs Widds and I embarked on a road-trip.
It started mostly as a whim, to visit all the hot springs within a reasonable distance of Widder Island, and with reasonable access, (because even back then, my knees were a shadow of their pre-motorbike-accident days) and turned into a pivotal Adventure that directly, and indirectly, led us to where we are today.
We’d gone camping in a tent for several summers prior to 2014, having decided, perhaps years before, that, being born-n-bred in the country, neither of us were of a temperament to take to city life and we didn’t want to stay in Vancouver and be ‘city-folk’, for the rest of our days. Going camping was our low-key, low-cost, way of exploring the possibilities.
Relocating from urban Vancouver to rural-ish Widder Island in 2012 was the first step toward living in the Interior. ( the ‘Interior’, being loosely defined as anywhere in British Columbia that wasn’t the coast or the Lower Mainland)
The next conundrum to be solved was, where. The Interior of B.C. is a very big place, and by extension, the whole of Canada is a very, very, big place. (about 1.3 times bigger than the whole continent of Australia. I know, technically, Australia is an island, but I still maintain that technically, Pluto is a planet)
(We weren’t closed to the idea of moving to another province, but after our 2015 Adventure, wherein we speed-pootled from one side of Canada to the other, (near enough anyway) we decided B.C. was the place for us. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself …)
After settling in to our new life on Widder Island, and after my run-in with cancer in 2012-13, we began a series of camping pootles to get a feel for the lay of the land. No one area really spoke to us and said ‘pick me, pick me’, although the North Thompson River valley from Clearwater to parts north, came the closest. (it was the route we chose on our way up here to Prince George)
It was about this time too, the tides of Climate Change (it wasn’t called ‘Climate Crisis’, yet) began to lap at the shores of our lives. Not quite impinging on our little island, but warning signs of what was to come made themselves known, mostly with unexpected weather patterns, micro-climate changes, etc. The data was there, clear as day, if one choose to look.
Our road-trip of 2014 circumnavigated a goodly portion of the south-eastern corner of B.C. Although I made some posts about it, I seem to have deleted most of them when I did a major ‘clean-up’ of my blog. The remaining two give a feel for it …
One of my two favourite memories from that trip was discovering Lussier Hot Springs in Whiteswan Provincial Park. To sink into that glorious crystal-clear hot water, flowing directly out of the earth and into the Lussier River, all held within giant water-smooth river boulders, was a treat for all the senses.
My other memory was standing on top of Sulphur Mountain, in Banff National Park. At 2,400 meters above sea-level, the air was so clear I could see forever. The air was also noticeably thinner up there, and lowland me felt a tad out of breath if I moved too fast.
Just to be clear, I didn’t actually climb the mountain under my own steam. My bad knee vetoed the strenuous hike and opted for the more sedate, but no less thrilling, gondola ride up and back.
Which brings me to my two worst, perhaps not ‘worst’, but certainly very sad, memories of the trip.
The day before we left Widder Island, I had an obscene amount of fluid drained from one of my knees. By the time we’d dipped our toes, and the rest of our anatomies, in the Lussier Hot Springs, (near Columbia lake – the start of the mighty Columbia River) and then headed for Radium Hot Springs, I knew my days of sleeping on the ground, (albeit on an air mattress in a nice comfy tent) were numbered … and that number had finally wound down to zero.
Thankfully we were able to book hotels for the rest of our journey, but it was the end of an era for me. One that began a year after the motorcycle accident that buggered my knee in the first place, (1983) and required that I do everything in my power to live as ‘normal’, a physical life as was womanly possible.
Looking back, almost 40 (and still counting) years, isn’t a bad innings for a knee that was given a maximum life-span of 10 years before being replaced. But still, it was a sobering realisation.
My other memory in the ‘sad’, category was taking a guided tour up onto the Athabasca Glacier. It groaned and creaked beneath my feet, existing, probably, long before the last Ice Age ended. Because of Climate Change, it was, (and still is) retreating beyond the ability of any amount of snowfall on its high reaches to ever replenish.
That afternoon, spending time with such an ancient entity, Climate Change became Climate Crisis for me.
We’d often talked about buying an RV of some sort, at some point in the future, but by the time we returned home from our 2014 Adventure, it was obvious that ‘some point’, had arrived.
We went to a few RV shows. The ones where they showcase the $400,000 coaches with 9 slide-outs, 15 gold-plated toilets, and Italian marble countertops. (I’m exaggerating, but only slightly – those things are insane) A glorious fantasy they were, but I ask you, who in their right mind wants (very heavy) marble countertops in their RV? (someone with enough money to not care, that’s who)
We liked the idea of a 5th-wheel, (which is a type of travel trailer (caravan) that hitches up inside the tray of the towing truck, mostly for the ceiling height as I recall) with slide-outs for more room. We liked them, that is, until we started looking into costs and financing. We eventually settled on our trusty 8m/25’ ‘Canyon Cat’, travel trailer and started planning our first trip while we waited for delivery, and thereafter, our modifications, to be completed.
Out came the maps to be pinned to the wall and stuck all over with post-its. We’d surprise each other with, ’what do you think about this’, and ‘maybe we should go here’,
We initially planned a few-hundred-kilometer pootle, a ‘shake-down cruise’, while we learned the in’s-and-out’s of RV-ing. (something neither of us had ever, ever, done before)
… yeah, about that …this is what we actually did …
10,000 kilometers in 31 days. From Widder Island, on the West coast of Canada to Niagara Falls, and back again.
It was one of those Adventures that usually have the appellation ‘… of a lifetime’, tagged on them, but somewhere along the way we wondered if we could do it more frequently, perhaps even as a lifestyle. There was nothing really to hold us to one place. The possibilities were … exciting, challenging, tantalising … endless.
Our steep learning curve turned vertical the moment we pulled out of our driveway, but we did it, and we made some truly memorable memories and saw some truly spectacular sights. (I was, however singularly unimpressed with the Prairies though. Not a mountain to be seen … for days, and days, and days and … I wrote a story about it that I might publish one day … perhaps in a collection of short stories inspired by our Adventures)
Elsewhere in the world ‘extreme weather events’, started making mainstream media headlines, and we took note, even as we planned our next RV-ing excursion (albeit a more modest outing than our maiden voyage) to Otter Lake in 2016.
On the way to Otter Lake, we drove through hundreds of hectares of devastated pine-tree plantations. Decades of forestry mismanagement and Global Warming provided the perfect environment for an opportunistic little bug, the Pine Beetle, to launch an invasion. Trees were dying everywhere, and when trees die in such numbers it’s only a matter of time before wildfires take their turn to ravage the land.
Throughout the summers of 2017, 2018, and 2019, wildfires wreaked untold devastation throughout BC, and blanketed whole regions in massive palls of cruel smoke and ash. Even on Widder Island, untouched by the fires themselves, visibility was reduced to a few hundred meters, and the smoke-filled air reduced any sort of outdoors venture to necessities only.
The regions we had planned to explore fared far worse, and it would’ve been the worst kind of irresponsible to visit them as tourists.
Through an abundance of caution and common sense, we cancelled our RV-ing plans for those three consecutive summers, although we still remained relatively untouched by the fallout from our rapidly changing climate until the summer of 2019 when Widder Lake was closed to swimmers for the first time. An algae bloom rendered the water too risky to human health. (no mention was made of the other species of creatures that used the lake, but isn’t that just like humans?)
As the summer of 2019 faded into Autumn and Winter, we took the time to finalise our plans to leave the coast permanently. Population pressure was driving the cost of living sky-high. We were lucky with our mostly absent landlady, but as renters our home could be pulled out from under us at any time.
We started ‘The Wunder-Lusters’, YouTube channel to document our journey, not only for ourselves, but for others who might be feeling the same way. To show what two older women could accomplish when they set their minds to it.
We waited for the high-passes to be free of snow, usually April/May-ish, so it would be safe to cross over them with our travel trailer, and then we would truly start our ‘wunder-lusting’, in the summer of 2020.
Plans which, as it turned out, were already 6 months out of date.
(It’s impossible to pinpoint exactly when Covid-19 first started, but this report, (along with others, I haven’t linked to, but they’re out there if you want to do a bit of research) reasonably deduces that late Autumn of 2019 is when the world changed for us all)